Until recently, high-ranking princes could basically treat government ministries as personal fiefdoms. Prince Mohammed upended that system.

“There used to be a fuzzy border between state finances and senior princes,” said Steffen Hertog, author of the 2010 book “Princes, Brokers and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia” and a professor at the London School of Economics. “There are only two people left who have that kind of direct access: the crown prince and the king.”

​​​​​​​Prince Mohammed, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion on his own, addressed his wealth, to a point, in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired in March last year.

“As far as my private expenses, I’m a rich person and not a poor person,” he said. “I’m a member of the ruling family that existed for hundreds of years before the founding of Saudi Arabia.”

Since the accession in 2015 of his father, King Salman, the crown prince has spearheaded the most radical liberalization the nation has seen under a plan called “Vision 2030” to diversify the economy, slash unemployment and reduce the reliance on oil.

Women are no longer legally banned from driving or from traveling abroad without the permission of a male relative, and they can attend events at sports stadiums. The new rules allow movie theaters and music concerts.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia under Prince Mohammed has jailed dissenting clerics and activists, including women who fought for the right to drive, and led a bombing campaign in Yemen that created a humanitarian crisis. The kingdom and the crown prince faced widespread condemnation over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October.

But the crown prince has, through it all, maintained a diplomatic alliance with U.S. President Donald Trump, who avoided singling him out for any alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s killing. Prince Mohammed’s hold on power at home doesn’t appear to have weakened. Nor, likely, has his control over the family purse.

Not even the potential public offering of oil giant Aramco and the publication of a numbers-packed prospectus did much to lift the veil on the royals’ wealth. The world’s most profitable company paid the Saudi government $162.9 billion in royalties, taxes and dividends last year, which flowed directly to the state treasury. How much if any was doled out to family members isn’t known.

Historically, there was little distinction between the state coffers and those of the royals, according to Ellen Wald, author of the 2018 book “Saudi Inc.: The Arabian Kingdom’s Pursuit of Profit and Power.” “This is an absolute monarchy,” she said. “When it comes down to it, the monarch can really take anything.”